Danilo Covic

February 22, 2024

Detailed Beginner's Guide: Understanding What is SaaS?

6 min read


In today's fast-changing digital world, Software as a Service (SaaS) is a major new way of using and delivering software. This inventive approach has transformed the software industry, presenting solutions that are adaptable to various needs, easily reachable, and financially advantageous. Understanding SaaS is crucial for businesses and individuals navigating the modern digital world.

What is SaaS?

Software as a Service, or SaaS, represents a paradigm shift in software delivery. This model involves software applications being provided and maintained by a service provider, making them accessible to users via the Internet. This approach contrasts sharply with traditional software models, which often involve direct installation and maintenance on user devices.

SaaS includes features such as multi-tenancy, meaning various customers share the same software, much like several families residing in different units of the same apartment complex. It also offers scalability, enabling users to tailor their service level to their specific requirements. Picture it as a flexible subscription where you can add more options as your business expands, moving away from the old model of a single, one-time purchase.

History of SaaS

The journey of SaaS began in the 1960s with the concept of utility computing and shared services. Mainframe suppliers provided businesses with computing power and applications through time-sharing systems, an early form of what we now know as cloud services.

However, the real transformation in SaaS began with the internet boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This era saw the transition from on-premise software installations to web-based applications, significantly reducing the cost and complexity of software deployment.

Salesforce, founded in 1999, played a pivotal role in this transition. They provided Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions online, removing the need for customers to install software themselves. This approach quickly caught on with other businesses, resulting in a variety of applications accessible via the web. The emergence of the Application Service Provider (ASP) model was a key step towards today's SaaS, even though it initially struggled with being adaptable and handling growing user numbers.

The early 2000s saw a boom in SaaS, helped by better internet speed and more advanced web browsers, making SaaS programs work more smoothly. The advent of cloud computing further boosted SaaS, offering more reliable, scalable, and secure services.


What is a SaaS Product?

A SaaS product is essentially a cloud-based software application accessible over the internet. These products include various business tools such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, which helps businesses manage their interactions with customers, and Human Resources Management (HRM) systems, which help handle employee-related tasks.

Examples of SaaS products include Salesforce for CRM, Slack for communication, Google Workspace for productivity, and Adobe Creative Cloud for creative professionals. Each of these products exemplifies the software as a service definition, offering users access to sophisticated tools without the need for complex installations or maintenance.

The versatility and accessibility of SaaS products have made them a popular choice across various business sectors, redefining the concept of software delivery and usage.


Advantages and Disadvantages

As with any technological advancement, SaaS brings its own mix of benefits and potential hurdles. Understanding these is crucial for businesses and individuals considering SaaS solutions.


Advantages of SaaS

Cost-Effectiveness: SaaS removes the need for significant upfront investments in software purchases and infrastructure.

Scalability: Users can adjust their usage based on current needs, offering flexibility.

Accessibility: Since it hosts SaaS applications in the cloud, we can use them from any location, supporting remote work and collaborative efforts.

Automatic Updates: Providers handle updates and upgrades, ensuring access to the latest features without additional costs or efforts from users.


Disadvantages of SaaS

Data Security Concerns: Hosting data on external servers raises concerns about data privacy and security.

Limited Customization: SaaS applications might not provide as extensive customization options as on-premise solutions.

Internet Dependency: Constant internet access is required to use SaaS applications, which can be a limitation in areas with poor connectivity.


SaaS Pricing Models

A defining characteristic of a SaaS company lies in its pricing strategy. The range of pricing models available in SaaS is tailored to accommodate different business needs and patterns of use.

Here are some of the most common pricing strategies employed in the SaaS industry:

Subscription-Based: A common model where users pay a recurring fee, often monthly or annually.

Usage-Based: Costs depend on the level of usage or features accessed by the user.

Freemium: Basic features are free, with advanced features available for a fee.

Per-User Pricing: Charges are based on the number of users accessing the application.

Tiered Pricing: Different packages offer varying levels of features and capabilities.

Pay-As-You-Go: Users pay for the exact amount of resources or services they consume, often in real time.


Leading SaaS Companies and Their Impact

The SaaS industry is not just about the technology; it's also about the companies that drive its growth and innovation. Here are some of the top SaaS companies by revenue and their contributions to the industry:

Salesforce: A leader in CRM, Salesforce has been instrumental in the rise of SaaS, offering a comprehensive suite of services that have become essential for many businesses.

Microsoft: Stands out in the SaaS landscape with offerings like Office 365 and Azure. These products showcase their substantial role in providing diverse productivity tools and cloud-based services.

Adobe: Known for its Creative Cloud suite, Adobe has transitioned successfully to a SaaS model, becoming a staple for creative professionals worldwide.

Amazon Web Services(AWS): Amazon Web Services provides a broad selection of SaaS options, encompassing everything from database management to machine learning tools. This diversity positions AWS as a fundamental support structure for numerous SaaS applications.

Google Cloud: With its Google Workspace, Google offers a suite of productivity and collaboration tools that have become integral to many businesses.

These firms are prime examples of what software as a service represents, each contributing distinct products and services that have transformed business operations in the digital era.

Being a marketing agency with a focus on e-commerce and SaaS, we invite you to explore our case study and learn how our exceptional strategy contributed to our SaaS client's campaign, resulting in a remarkable achievement of generating over 43% of total gross sales in just the past three days.


Future of SaaS

As we stand in 2023, the SaaS market is a testament to this growth, valued at an impressive 197 billion U.S. dollars. This number is projected to escalate to approximately 232 billion U.S. dollars by 2024, reflecting the ever-increasing reliance of businesses and individuals on cloud-based solutions. (source: Statista)


SaaS has not only transformed the software industry but has also established itself as a pivotal element in our digital ecosystem. The evolution of SaaS from the 1960s until now demonstrates continuous innovation in the way software is delivered.

As technology continues to advance, the role of SaaS is expected to become even more integral in the software industry. It is reshaping how businesses and individuals use and interact with software, moving us toward a more connected and efficient digital future.

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Read a real-life case study where we used some of the know-how and tehniques talked about in the article above.

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